In early 2012, two attorneys independently filed suit against Westlaw and LexisNexis, claiming that the companies had misappropriated original documents for commercialization in their legal research databases. The litigation was dismissed earlier this month, however, as a New York District Court judged asserted that both companies had operated in alignment with the doctrine of fair use.
According to JD Journal, one of the original lawsuits was actually dismissed in 2012 on the grounds that copyright registration had not been officially completed before the motion had been filed. The second plaintiff followed through with the claim, alleging "wholesale, unlawful copying" of protected documents he produced.
While the profits garnered by Westlaw and LexisNexis via distribution of legal documents were never in question, the legality of royalty management models was. The two companies were able to argue their innocence in the eyes of the court, however, by satisfying several fair use standards.
All of the documents integrated into the legal research libraries were sourced from publicly available databases, according to Inside Counsel. Additionally, the two companies demonstrated transformative use by reformatting the material for compatibility with their own proprietary search engines.